A CHRISTian Pattern for Marriage - 1 peter 3.1-7
A church of Scotland Minister said on BBC tv last week that women in the parts of the bible were considered as property of their husbands. Is this an accurate view of biblical marriage? The church of Scotland and England are changing their view on marriage in order to fit with the society around us. Is this what we should all be doing? How seriously should we take what the bible says on marriage? What should our marriages in the 21st Century look like? What should they point to? Well we're going to have a look at what (1 Peter) this passage says and then after the service there'll be time for questions. Please do turn with me to page 860 where we'll find 1 Peter chapter 3, and you should also find a handout, in your service sheets, where there are some headings and some space to make notes.
Firstly let's look back to see where we are in Peter's letter
He's writing to some of the Christians scattered round what is now Northern Turkey. And he's begun his letter by reminding them that they are chosen by God but are strangers here in this world. And he tells them how to live holy lives amongst unbelievers in an unholy world. And we're looking at the last section where he addresses three groups of people who are vulnerable to injustice; vulnerable to those with power or authority over them. We see three situations in society where Christians should submit but are tempted not to: those under an unbelieving government, unbelieving masters, and unbelieving spouses. And we've been seeing that we shouldn't turn to get what we want through unjust, unfair or manipulative means – we should be gracious and trust God. This evening we look at what he says to spouses and as we do we'll see that there are implications for us, not just for those of us who are married and not just for those of us who are married to unbelievers, but for all of us. All believers are called to promote the biblical Christian pattern for marriage in the church and defend it in the public sphere. And Just like the our previous passage we looked at in 1 peter chapter 2. There is a command with several supporting reasons. So let's have a look at the commands and the reasons why.
And the first command is this
Wives, Like Jesus, Be Submissive
"Wives, in the same waybe submissive to your husbands"
Firstly this is not "Women be submissive to ALL men." No – the command is clear "Wives submit to husbands". Now this is really bad news in our society's eyes. This is shocking to our western culture. Partly because feminism is so pervasive. It's everywhere. Even in churches. I remember a lady vicar who said she wanted to hit me because I held the door open for her. I remember my wife having the opportunity to read a similar bible passage to this at my brother's wedding and one of the bride's friends thought it was a joke. She thought it was laughable. Well they may laugh and, as we read a couple of weeks ago in 1 Peter 2.12,
"though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."
Now it's right to say that women have been treated badly throughout history and even now across the world. In all sorts of ways we live in a "mixed up muddled up shook up world" to quote the Kinks. On the one hand we have the likes of feminism tempting men to roll over and not live up to their God given responsibilities and on the other hand we have the likes of Amnesty international who, I've learnt just today, have called for a full decriminalization of prostitution. It's crazy. It's muddled. And how do we make our way through this muddle? By following a biblical Christian pattern for marriage where wives are submissive.
But, the submission we're talking about is not a bigoted domineering abuse of women. We're talking about a biblical loving marriage relationship. A biblical definition of submission goes something like this: "a willing voluntary decision to honour a husband by following his lead; to obey unless he tells you to disobey God." This submission is not based on inferiority or inequality. No. Men and women are equal as we'll see later but they have different roles. Men are to self sacrificially lay down their lives for their wives. They are to do and decide what is best for their wives not what's best for themselves. At my wedding my wife promised to obey me and I promised to worship her, which means to put her first.
In our passage the submission is qualified: verse 1 "wives in the same way" or Likewise. In the same way to what? Well what Peter has just been writing about. NOT the same as slaves who were owned by their masters. This is talking about Jesus's example; in the same way as Jesus.
"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."
He was submissive. Jesus was submissive to the father. God the Son entrusted himself to the Father. This leads us to verse 2 where we see the reverence of biblical wives which is the same as the fear we've seen earlier in 1 Peter; that is the fear of God not man. Verse 1 to the end of verse 2
"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands
so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."
It has to be said DO NOT get married to a non-Christian but if you become a Christian whilst having a non-Christian husband then you must still submit, even though you know the truth and they don't. And the hope is that they will be convinced that Christianity is true by your conduct, by your behavior. For someone to be converted you obviously need words because they can't hear the good news of Jesus unless someone tells them, but hopefully they will be won over. NonChristians should see our conduct, our behaviour and be won over. They should be convinced that our way of life is best. We then need to tell the gospel. JUST good conduct is not enough to convert. God doesn't want you to endlessly challenge and nag particularly when it comes to the gospel. If you've just become a Christian don't keep bible bashing your non-Christian husband. There is a general strategy here. Quiet obedience works in the long run. It is a more Godly strategy than jumping up and down screaming that he's wrong and you're right or just constantly nagging with many words. I that know some blokes are pretty dosy and need things pointing out to them, but do it gently. The husband should be won over when he's see that his wife is submissive, whether he's nice or unreasonable. He will see her be gracious to him, treating him undeservedly. He may ask, "Now what makes someone do that? What makes some treat me undeservedly kind? Because God has treated her so undeservedly kind." You see as well as the gospel message itself; it's our behaviour which makes the gospel attractive.
Isn't it interesting that Peter immediately goes on to talk about beauty. Now why do women try to make themselves look beautiful? It may unfortunately be exacerbated by men showing off what they've got; treating women like objects and women falling into that trap of wanting to be the centre of attention, to attract the notice of others. Some women also try and dress up etc to compete with other women. You might not be aware of it but it can be true.
BUT, verse 3;
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."
Women are often able to use their beauty to get what they want, and Peter agrees! He just says. "Use the right beauty. Use the right beauty, and you might win your unbelieving husband over for the gospel." That beauty is a beauty of the gospel; a beauty influenced by the gospel. Influenced by the example of Christ. Why be submissive, particularly to a guy who doesn't deserve it, to a guy who doesn't know as well as you, who doesn't know the truth? Because of the gospel. Because Christ submitted.
So our beauty is not to be found on what's on the outside but what's on the inside; a Christ-likeness. And this is for all Christian wives and all those aspiring to be wives. It is not that these things on the outside are not beautiful. It is not denying what is beautiful. It is not saying that shiny things and well made things are not beautiful, but what are you depending on to make you attractive? What is it that is attractive about you? What should be attractive? What should draw attention to you? What should you be renowned for or famous for? I was writing some words of commendation for someone I knew and I could honestly say and write that "She is the most Christ-like woman I know." The point is; these external things may be beautiful but they're fakes! They're add-ons. They're not actually you. They're not the real you. They're not part of you. The things that people are attracted to are things. Do you see what I mean? People aren't attracted to you; they are attracted to the things! And what's more those things don't last. All those things such as nice clothes and hair and jewelry are perishable! External beauty doesn't last. The husband will sooner or later find that out and what's he going to think when the make up's all washed off, or the forever youthful anti wrinkle cream hasn't worked? He's going to say, "I've been duped. I've been had." Us blokes are so easily won over by beauty. This part of the letter is addresed to married people but to those of you who are not married; at the end of the day who do you want to marry; an ungodly man who cares about what you look like, who will be tempted to dump you when you get wrinkles or when he's got bored with you or a godly man who cares about the inside of you and how Christ-like you are? And blokes, what are you looking for in a woman? Do you want a beautiful woman or a godly woman? Are you idolizing sex? Do you think you will get more sex from someone who acts and dresses sexually provocatively? You'll get better sex, and probably more, from a wife who loves you. I'm not saying beautiful women can't be loving but what are you looking for in a woman? Outward beauty fades. Inner beauty never does. Verse 4
"Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.?
We need to be Beautiful in God's sight, with a Christ-like gentle and quiet spirit. So is that what you are going to ADORN yourselves with? The ESV puts it well. Listen to this.
"Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-- but let your adorning be athe hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,
This adorning spreads though into the next reason – the next reason to obey the command to submit to husbands. And that is the example set by Godly women of the past. Verse 5 from our NIV bibles:
"For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God
used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."
As a brief side note – Here, we look to older women of the past to be an example; what role models are you being for the youngsters and younger women in our church and even in our society?
Notice again; it's how they adorn themselves. How they, verse 5, used to "make themselves beautiful" basically how they "continually adorned themselves" It is an active ongoing thing that they did to themselves. Every time you look in the mirror and you're putting on your make up or looking at what you're wearing, just think, "Am I putting on, am I clothing myself, am I adorning myself with purity, with fear of the Lord, with gentleness, with a quiet spirit and submissiveness to my husband or a possible future husband."
Do you struggle with gentleness or nagging or do you push for conflict? This may be harder for some than others. Some women are more naturally submissive. It may be in their nature or it may be in their upbringing; that they've been brought up to be submissive. Some have not seen good examples in the home. Some have mistakenly wanted to take on their father's role. Their aspirations have not been corrected as children. Some have believed the feminist lie that they can compete with the men in exactly the same way. That it's only the biology that's different. Parents are we bringing up our daughters to submit to a bloke? I have three daughters and do you know it saddens me that I don't see many boys growing up to be worthy of my daughters' submission. I'm bringing them up to submit to a sinner, and rightly so.
So we should look to older women and older women of the past as an example. And Peter reminds us of the example of Sarah. Now Sarah wasn't perfect by all means (neither was Abraham) but it is her submissiveness which is being commended here. She doesn't call him 'Master' like the slave-master relationship we saw earlier but she obeyed him. There are times when they didn't get it right as a couple but generally she trusted her husband to lead her – do you? Do what is right even though it is hard, even though you might not agree with your husband. Do what is right even if it's scary. It is scary letting someone else lead you. It's scary submitting to a guy who you think will get things wrong; submitting to a sinner, but don't give in to fear. Remember Christ who entrusted himself to the Father. Don't give in to fear but have a fearful reverence of the Lord. Trust yourself to God. It's about being beautiful in God's sight that counts.
Well what about blokes? What about husbands? Again there is a command with some supporting reasons so let's have a look at the command and the reasons why. My second heading on the sheets is
Husbands, Like Jesus, Be Second
in the same way
as you live with your wives,
and treat them with respect
as the weaker partner
and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life,
nothing will hinder your prayers."
In the same way or likewise. Again this doesn't mean the same as slaves and masters as neither husband nor wife are owned and the husband-wife relationship is very different. This doesn't mean husbands submit to wives. It means like Jesus, following his example, in the same way, like Jesus be considerate and respectful. Use your authority in the way Jesus used his authority. It means husbands put your wives first. Be second. Put yourselves second to them. I worship my wife. I put her first. It's quite simple really. Every single decision I make is based on what I think is truly best for her, not me, and she willingly submits to that, (hopefully without nagging). I do what I don't want to do. Why? Chapter 2 verse 21
"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps"
I'll suffer if it means what's best for my wife. It doesn't mean I give what she wants because what she wants isn't always the best for her. It means I will do what's best for her. So how do we do that? The verse says be considerate. Be understanding. Literally it says " Live according to knowledge." And this may be, "Live According to the knowledge of her strengths and weaknesses." Don't be ignorant. Too many men daydream through their marriages. Even though you may struggle to understand women, (and here's a tip when you can't understand them; just be gracious to them) but as husbands we should be striving to understand our wives. Here's a small example; do you know her monthly cycle? Do you know she feels differently and thinks differently throughout the month? Sometime she finds it harder to control herself when hormones are so strong. Are you prepared for when that extra grace is required? Are you being considerate to her? Are you considering her needs first? Do you know what those needs are? So yes we should be striving on the life-long journey to understand our wives, and if we don't then it says we don't care. But as Peter is definitely addressing Christian husbands he may be saying, "Live according to the knowledge you have of the gospel, and to love your wives according to that knowledge. You DO know the grace of God, unlike the non-Christian, unbelieving husband of verse 1." Either way be considerate.
So the first command to Husbands, Like Jesus, Be Second; be considerate
the second is be respectful.
in the same way
as you live with your wives,
and treat them with respect
as the weaker partner
and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life,"
Husbands treat your wives with respect. Don't exploit them like our society does. Respect them. Honour them, just as God the Father wants honour for Jesus. In so many conversations I've had with non-Christians I find that they want to get one over on their wives. They say things like, "Don't tell the wife" in order for them to get away with things. That's not respectful or honouring. God says treat wives with Respect. And Why? Peter gives two contrasting reasons.
Firstly, because they're different. Our wives are different to us. Generally they are weaker. Just watch the Olympics to see. Generally Women are weaker physically and, dare I say it, perhaps emotionally. So do You make allowances for them? Are you gracious to them? Our wives have less power. They are vulnerable. Are you loving them accordingly.
And secondly treat them with respect because they're the same. Your wife inherits just as much as you. She gets eternal life just as much as you. You're no more important and she's not inferior, so don't be domineering and ruthless. She is a co-heir. She is equal. This role you have been given by God in no way whatsoever makes you superior or worth more; it makes you more responsible!
Peter also gives a third reason. Thirdly, end of verse 7:
"so that nothing will hinder your prayers."
So that your prayers are not hindered. So that nothing will get in the way of your prayers. You see how you treat your wife is between you and God. Have you noticed how both passages, to both wives and husbands bring God back into the picture of our marriages? To the wives he said. "Adorn yourself with what is beautiful in God's sight and don't give way to fear." and here to the husbands he says, "Remember what God thinks about how you're treating your wife and whether God will listen to you." He's watching you every step of the way, every moment of speech, every thought in your head. And will he be happy with you? Are you being gracious? If you don't treat them with respect then God won't answer your prayers. Be gracious. Make allowances for them. They're going to say stuff and do stuff they shouldn't. So will you. Be gracious so that will nothing hinder your prayers. Forgive as God has forgiven you.
So Husbands Like Jesus, Be Second: be considerate and respectful
And as we finish allow me to draw to a close with a few questions that might help us apply this further.
Men, Do you just accept and conform to society around you? In Peter's day the temptation may have been to be overly dominant and harsh. In today's liberal society it may be to be a push over; a shrinking violet, not standing up for the true biblical lifestyle and conduct that will glorify God. We're tempted to want anything for an easy life!
Women, do you want to be gentle and quiet? Do you want to accept God's pattern for marriage? Or do you want to fight or be confrontational or nag? Do you sometimes want, in a childish way, to kick against the boundaries, to push your man to the limit? Make yourself beautiful in God's sight
If you're a single what are you looking for in a spouse? Choose a husband you can submit to. Blokes do you value that inner beauty more than the temporary external add-ons which can so easily be removed?
All of us, are you prepared to stand up amongst the pressure of your work mates or school mates for this wonderful Biblical pattern for marriage?
Will we reflect the pattern of Jesus and be Christ-like in our marriages? Will our marriages point unbelievers to the grace of Christ?